Horace Mann, the founder of Antioch College, famously said: "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."
It's bugged me to read that quote since I've become an adult. Why? Because I have guilt. What the hell have I done for humanity? I colored a lot of comic books. I got chased by a hippopotamus. In other words, squat.
Then I go and read blogs about Antioch, where alumni all have mixed feelings but recognize the value of an Antioch education--oh, and they've done all kinds of fabulous things. I look at the list of famous Antiochians. I read about one of my classmates defecating on the then-college president's desk. (Okay, maybe not the last one.) I feel small. So many fought the good fight. And I haven't so much as written my congressman. I'm not even sure who my congressman is.
My final project was a ridiculous video called "A Day In the Life of an Assistant Editor." I followed David Wohl around Marvel Comics for a few weeks in 1988. I tried editing it on Steve Buccellato's home editing deck, but it was a disaster and I ended up editing late into the night on broken equipment in Antioch's MacGregor Hall, just before presenting it.
My advisor knew my senior project was borderline. No victories for humanity were achieved. But we all howled with laughter watching it at Marvel, and Will Roberts (my advisor) let me graduate with no more punishment than a raised eyebrow.
As the news of the college closing has unfolded, it seems that there was a conflict between the university system and the college. Alumni, me included, were asked for money. I tossed the letter out. It was no different than any other year. Schools that teach social justice aren't usually rolling in money and high enrollment.
None of us realized that this crises was any different than any other crises. I couldn't imagine that things were worse than when I attended, from 1984-88.
And if I had realized, would I have given money? Well, sure, fifty bucks or whatever. But Antioch is a school that puts out social activists and creative professionals. Not so many rich people. Would it have changed anything if we'd all kicked in a few bucks, while keeping an eye on our rent? Probably not much. I've recently come to the startling realization that after taxes, more than 50% of my monthly take-home pay goes to rent. Scary.
The school produced radicals and academics for 150 years. Stephen Jay Gould, Coretta Scott King, and Eleanor Holmes Norton are on the list of alumni. And creative people went there too. Rod Serling. Gits singer Mia Zapata. One of the They Might Be Giants Johns.
I haven't done too well on the victory front yet, but I'd say Antioch won its fair share of victories for humanity. Not that this means it's okay for Antioch to die, but as it goes down, it can be proud for having fulfilled its mission as defined by its first president.
*Title swiped from Lisa Whipple's email